Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Navigate Left
  • TUA update

    News

    Student government to host spring elections this week

  • Tulane University removed Tonya Hansel as director of the doctor of social work program. Hansel remains a tenured professor.

    News

    Director of Tulane doctor of social work program removed

  • The New Orleans Book Festival at Tulane University is scheduled for Mar. 14-16.

    News

    Book Fest schedule features Stacey Abrams, Jake Tapper

  • Students, faculty and alumni gathered on the academic quad on Friday to start digging the new NPHC plots, marking a new beginning for Black greek organizations.

    News

    ‘A huge step forward’: Plots earn Divine Nine recognition on campus

  • Over the span of five days, monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery worked together in the meticulous creation of a sand mandala on the fifth floor of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library. On Saturday morning, it was wiped away with several swipes of a paintbrush.

    News

    Peek into Tibetan Buddhism, from Howard-Tilton Memorial Library

  • With a capacity of 200+ people, Paul Hall’s auditorium serves as an ideal venue for lecture-based classes.

    News

    Paul Hall opens new doors for Science and Engineering department

  • Its a bird, its a plane, its Green Wave Man

    Baseball

    Meet Green Wave Man: Tulane’s only superfan

  • Lisa P. Jackson, Apple executive and the first Black administrator of the EPA, came to Tulane to speak about her career path.

    News

    Apple executive Lisa Jackson speaks on career journey

  • The pop icon has come under scrutiny for her consistent attendance at Kansas City Chiefs games this season

    Football

    Do NFL fans really hate Taylor Swift or do they hate women?

  • OPINION | Tenure: The last defense of professors’ constitutional rights 

    Views

    OPINION | Tenure: The last defense of professors’ constitutional rights 

  • Heres how you should spend your college summer.

    Arcade

    What can I do with my first college summer?

  • Club spotlight: Tulane Sports Business Conference

    Arcade

    Club spotlight: Tulane Sports Business Conference

  • Dua Lipa turns back clock on ‘Training Season’

    Arcade

    Dua Lipa turns back clock on ‘Training Season’

  • Pottery on display in the Newcomb Art Museum.

    Arcade

    Newcomb Pottery shines light on Tulane’s history

  • OPINION | Could NOLA be more than four years of fun?

    Uncategorized

    OPINION | Could NOLA be more than four years of fun?

Navigate Right
Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

flytedesk: Box (In-Story)
flytedesk (In-Story | Box)
flytedesk (Sidebar | Half Page)

Letter to the Editor | 75-year-old Texas activist completed 30-day hunger strike: Here’s why

Fossil fuel and petrochemical empires have taken the Gulf South under siege. Hundreds of industrial facilities crowd once healthy coasts and waterways — they greedily consume groundwater, threaten critical wetlands and release deadly pollutants and carcinogens into neighboring communities. Brought to the region by favorable tax subsidies and political climates, petrochemical plants and refineries are ceaselessly expanding to feed a global hunger for plastics. Residents of Texas and Louisiana, living in the hub of toxic production, endure the destruction of their ecosystems, livelihoods and bodily health.

Diane Wilson promoting strike kick-off. Photo courtesy of San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeepers. https://www.4imfa.org/

Capitalizing on our globalized, hyperconsumerist economy, transnational corporations sustain the world’s plastic addiction through the mass manufacturing of petroleum-based goods — a dangerous, yet lucrative operation. One petrochemical corporation, Formosa Plastics Group, has a particularly egregious track record. Originating from Taiwan, Formosa Plastics is the fourth-largest petrochemical company in the world, possessing a $103 billion market capitalization and over 100 subsidiary companies. The company’s facilities in Louisiana and Texas consistently break environmental regulations and experience serious workplace injuries. Nevertheless, FPG is navigating legal procedures to build yet another plant in Louisiana, located in the infamous “Cancer Alley.” The facility would double toxic emissions in an area already heavily concentrated with deadly pollutants.

Outraged by Formosa Plastics’ disastrous impact on their communities, activists boldly resist the company and demand better. Diane Wilson, a 75-year-old fisherwoman from Calhoun County, Texas, has been one of the company’s longest and most successful opponents. For generations, her family has made their livelihood from fishing in the estuarine bay — a way of life that is existentially threatened by water pollution from FPG’s Point Comfort facility. Among other toxic pollutants, the plant releases countless tons of plastic pellets into the bay, which are entangled in plants and eaten by fish. Government officials blatantly ignored environmental and safety concerns, forcing Wilson to take matters into her own hands.

In her activism against FPG, Wilson’s greatest weapons are citizen science and civil disobedience. Working with ex-plant workers and concerned community members, she spent years collecting thousands of plastic pellet samples to build a legal case against the company. In 2019, the hand-gathered evidence allowed her team to win a $50 million settlement from Formosa Plastics, the largest settlement in U.S. history for a violation of the Clean Water Act.  

The historical settlement, which funded community restoration and monitoring projects, is not her only victory against environmental threats. In 2021, she conducted a hunger strike to protest a Texas dredging project that would allow more oil exporting operations. After refusing to eat for 36 days, Wilson successfully stopped the project from moving forward. Now, Wilson is employing the same tactic to demand action from Formosa Plastics overseas. 

Diane Wilson on day three of her hunger strike, Formosa Plastics Point Comfort facility, Texas. Photo courtesy of Nancy Bui, International Monitor Formosa Alliance. https://www.4imfa.org/

Wilson began a new hunger strike on Oct. 31, 2023. This time, she called on FPG to address injustices in central Vietnam. A Formosa Plastics subsidiary operates a steel plant in Ha Tinh province, which caused a mass fish die-off and one death after spilling highly toxic waste into the sea. Though the incident occurred in 2016, thousands of fishermen remain displaced from the incident, and victims were imprisoned for protesting the company’s failure. As legal efforts against the Ha Tinh steel plant stall, Wilson is fighting for the political prisoners’ release and fishermen’s just compensation through direct action. 

Wilson’s strike also comes months after activists requested to meet with corporate officials about the injustices in Vietnam. This May, Wilson and her allies traveled to the FPG headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan to voice their demands at the company’s annual meeting of stakeholders. Allies accompanying Wilson included Nancy Bui, a Vietnamese American activist based in Texas, who founded the Justice for Formosa Victims organization. She was also joined by Sharon Lavigne, a Louisiana activist who spearheaded opposition against the massive FPG plant slated for construction in her community. These three women comprise the International Monitor Formosa Alliance, which promotes international activist collaborations against FPG. Meeting attendees allowed the IMFA activists to speak but did not respond to their concerns. 

Kicking off the strike, Wilson sat in a ditch just outside the legal boundary of the Texas Point Comfort facility. Only her red pickup truck and a sign, reading “Stop Formosa: Justice for 7000+ Vietnamese Fishermen,” demarcated her presence. With time, her humble campaign expanded. Allies planted large white crosses around the site, in the semblance of a cemetery. After three weeks without a response from FPG, Wilson began occupying the encampment at all hours, consuming nothing to sustain her except water. 

Members of the International Monitor Formosa Alliance in Taipei, Taiwan — Nancy Bui, Diane Wilson, Sharon Lavigne and Lavigne’s daughter Shamyra. Photo courtesy of Hao Min, TW Reporter. https://www.4imfa.org/

Wilson augmented her in-person struggle at the Point Comfort facility through online activism. When her strike began, Wilson encouraged supporters to engage in a “global hunger strike” alongside her for one or a few days. During the month, more than 250 people from 12 countries have joined the strike. Posted photos document participants holding signs in multiple languages with messages like “Striking for a Day With Diane.” Wilson shared updates with global followers by publishing journal entries about her daily experiences on the strike.

On Nov. 29, Wilson completed 30 days of her hunger strike while staying at the facility encampment. Lack of nutrition, as well as the cold weather and poor sleeping conditions, were taking a significant toll on her 75-year-old body. In the previous days, allies had given Wilson an emergency Life Alert tool, fearful for her deteriorating health. By the end of the month, medical professionals told Wilson that she may lose her life if she continued to go without eating. Though reluctant to stop, she decided to end the strike after four long weeks.

Efforts to achieve justice for Vietnamese fishermen are far from over. Her allies, including Waterkeeper Dan Lê, continue to occupy the encampment of tents in front of Formosa Plastics’ Point Comfort facility. Since the strike’s conclusion on Friday, the IMFA has hand-delivered a letter every day to plant officials restating their demands. Over 50 local and international organizations have signed onto the letter to show their support. Despite FPG’s continued silence on Wilson’s demands, her defiance is a remarkable feat. 

Inspired readers can join Wilson’s fight by signing on to her global hunger strike, where they can strike for one or a few days in solidarity with her cause. Community members can also encourage their organizations to sign onto the IMFA’s open letter of demands to Formosa Plastics. Finally, Wilson welcomes volunteers to stay at their encampment in Texas as their struggle for justice continues. 

When acting as cognizant consumers and allies to activists, the public can amplify brave opposition to unchecked petrochemical expansion. The world is drowning in industrial development from the Gulf South to central Vietnam — will you hear the call to join the wave of resistance?

Leave a Comment

Donate to The Tulane Hullabaloo
$125
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Tulane University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The Tulane Hullabaloo
$125
$1000
Contributed
Our Goal